Chavarah- Jewish Community Learning

A blog of Jewish study and traditions. Notes from classes: Torah Study with Rabbi Marder, Toledot and Shabbaton as well as other details found of interest.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Book of Life

In Torah Study we talked about that “Book of Life” we speak of at Yom Kippur.

We reviewed thoughts on the concept through history. Beginning with a reference in Exodus 32 and in Psalm 139 to mentions Pirke Avot (200CE) and through history to the more contemporary view of Rabbi Deborah Lipstadt.

Conclusion: The once a year review is really not enough. We are really obliged to review our actions throughout the year. Remember that there are consequences to our actions that may be far-reaching.

‘Plant nothing but the seeds of goodness into the soil of the future...’ - the message of Samson Raphael Hirsch (19th century Germany)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Teach Swimming With Joy to Survive

Choose Life (Deuteronomy 30)

It is our obligation to teach our children Torah. Give them their independence. Be sure they can support themselves and take care of themselves.

R. Akiva (ca. 50–ca. 135 CE) emphasizes that we must "teach our children to swim". This extends beyond survival in water. Give them the tools to survive in any misfortune.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (1895-1986) added to the message that we must teach our children not only the obligation to follow the teachings of Torah but also to feel the pride and joy of doing this. Also they must adopt the proper attitude about learning and living in the right path.

"And choose life in order that you and your offspring will live." (Devarim 30:19). "Why does the Torah need to write this?" asks Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l. The previous verse (30:15) already stated that doing good brings life, and evil brings death. However, there is a deeper point here. The way that we choose to fulfill the mitzvos can bring life. Do we perform mitzvos begrudgingly, out of a feeling of obligation? Are our mitzvos a "lifeless" routine? If so, they will not have a positive influence on our offspring and students. They will sense that the fulfilling the mitzvos of the Torah is a big burden, and find excuses to throw off the yoke.

Contrast this with one who does mitzvos with great simcha (happiness). He learns Torah with tremendous joy. He puts "life" into his mitzvos because they are his life's pleasure. All other fleeting delights pale in comparison. This person will merit true life - great happiness in this world, and eternity in the world to come. And his children will see it, feel it, and follow in his footsteps.

Remember why we study Torah and Talmud is to make the quality of life the best it can be for us and future generations.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Moses: Teacher, Marketeer, Manager, Motivator, Organizer

Deuteronomy 30

We often think of Moses as a teacher. The final speech can be looked at as the 'ultimate lesson plan'. Moses uses every teaching technique to get his message to the people. He addresses the auditory learners, the visual learners and those who learn best by physical involvement.

Rabbi Marder pointed out that you can also look at Moses’ speech from the vantage of Social Marketing Theory and techniques implement mass behavior changes. He portrays the benefits of following the law, makes the offer attractive and gives the message in multiple ways and repeats the message often.

Then it was noted how Moses also used good management skills as he not only asked for blind obedience to follow the law, but he took the time to explain the reasons for obedience.

And also Moses’ showed good organizational theory in how the task is presented in various ways with ‘practical first steps’ to follow the law.

It seems from looking at Moses this way that his techniques give us an excellent role model for good practices and methods in many different professions. This speech could also be viewed as the 'ultimate motivation' seminar!

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Saturday, June 09, 2007

Choose OR Command

Deuteronomy 30:14-20 Torah Study with R. Marder

He says, "choose life". We have free choice.

BUT He also says "I command you". We need to be convinced.

This is Moses in his final lesson - begging, pleading, cajoling - using every technique known to get the message across that the survival of the people depends on their following the laws and the way of life that he has set out for them.

It is the "ultimate lesson plan" and Moses is good at his role of leader. He knows that the future holds both good and bad. There will be many temptations to stray as they move forward. He knows that they need to make the right choices.

Like a parent giving guidance to their children, we must teach the next generation to hold on to the lessons of Torah and follow its guide because that is what will insure our survival as a people.

Each of our lives is finite, but we share in a potential for collective immortality. It is our personal choices that make a difference in the future.

BOOK: Jew and the Lotus - by Rodger Kamenetz - explores lessons of spiritual survival - about when the Dalai Lama invited eight Jewish delegates to Dharamsala, India, to ask them, "What is the secret of Jewish spiritual survival in exile?"